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Academic year: 2020



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Romina Iebra Aizpurúa (MSc. Psychology)

Thesis submitted to the School of Social Science and Psychology in fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of






Although immigration has been widely investigated, academic research regarding the female immigration remains limited. As a result of relocation, immigrant women – compared to male immigrants – are considered to experience greater hardships, often connected to the influence of traditional gender values and roles, restricted political support, and the lack of adequate social services to facilitate their integration.

Australia is, essentially, a land of immigrants. International immigration represents one of its major sources of population and economic growth. However, the integration of immigrants is a controversial and often conflictive issue. In spite of Australia’s endorsement of multiculturalism, the influence of the historic white Australian ideals remains as an informal expectation to assimilate ethnically divergent minorities.

The Latin American community in Australia is large and has contributed, not only to the economic prosperity of the country, but also to its cultural diversity. Despite official discourses, however, Latin American immigrants do not encounter the same labour and economic opportunities, and often experience severe social challenges and discrimination.

In seeking to understand the specific acculturation challenges of Latin American females in Australia, 13 women – living in Australia for an average of 32 years – were interviewed using an open-ended schedule. The data from the interviews was qualitatively analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.



“I, Romina Iebra Aizpurúa, declare that the Doctor of Philosophy exegesis entitled “Through the Women’s Eyes: Latin American Women’s Experience of Immigration to Australia” is no more than 100,000 words in length, including quotes and exclusive of tables, figures, appendices, bibliography, references and footnotes. This thesis contains no material that has been submitted previously, in whole or in part, for the award of any other academic degree or diploma. Except where otherwise indicated, this thesis is my own work.”



I will always be thankful to my supervisor, Adrian Fisher, whose support and belief in me represented one of the main reasons I came to Australia. Your guidance through my academic journey was invaluable. Thank you for not only directing me through many unknown territories but also for giving me so much freedom to find my own path. I am especially grateful to you for understanding my own acculturation challenges and support me in difficult moments.

I am thankful to Lesley Birch who also made everything possible before and during my PhD. You will remain in my memory as the most helpful and efficient university member.

I am grateful to Victoria University and to the Department of Education, Science and Training of the Australian Government for financially supporting me during my studies.

I want to sincerely thank each one of the participants included in this research and all the women who helped me in the recruitment process in a city and a culture where I had everything to learn about. To my participants, thank you for allowing me into your most private experiences and feelings. You became a very important part of my life. I am grateful to all those women who indicated me places and people to interview and who became supporting friends during this journey. It was because of your good will to help me and participate that everything was possible.


A big thank you to Diego Quarrato, for being an unconditional friend and one of the major gifts of my Australian experience. Thank you for so many days and awaken nights sharing my homesickness. You are a beautiful soul.

I could not be any more grateful to my parents, brother and best friends in Argentina, Brazil and other corners of the world for holding my hand and believing in me even when I didn’t. Your love and support empowered me every day to face my own cultural challenges, the distance and the absence of the people and the things I treasure. Thank you for representing what I call “home”. I love you all.








1.1 Introduction to the phenomenon of immigration and acculturation ……….1

1.2 Latin American immigration to Australia……..………...4

1.3 Structure of the thesis………6


2.1 Immigration and acculturation………12

2.2 Ethnic identity and acculturation………17

2.3 Culture shock and acculturative stress………20

2.4 Ethnic social support as a buffer of acculturative stress……….25

2.5 Factors impacting on the acculturation process………..28

2.5.1 Factors Prior to Acculturation………..30 Knowledge of the Host Country’s Language………33

2.5.2 Influence of the host society on immigrants’ acculturation process…………37

2.6 Immigrants’ acculturation outcomes and its relation to psychological wellbeing……..43



3.1 Challenges related to female immigration………..49

3.1.1 Gender values and its impact on immigrant women’s psychological wellbeing………..54


4.1 Chile………58

4.2 Argentina……….60

4.3 Uruguay………...61


5.1 From the White Australian policy to Multiculturalism………...66




6.1 Introduction to phenomenology and its connection to the Social Sciences………76

6.2 Interpretative phenomenological analysis………...…78


7.1 Participants………..82

7.2 Materials………..83


7.5 Researcher Statement………..89 CHAPTER 8:

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION……….90 8.1 Challenges encountered as immigrant women in Australia………92


8.3 Gender and private life………..141

8.3.1 Being a woman in Australia………...142

8.3.2 Family life in Australia………..…145 Marriage………..146 Motherhood and Family life………149 A step behind: Renegotiation gender roles at home………156

8.4 Acculturation outcomes………160

8.4.1 Immigrants’ self perception of negative acculturation outcomes…………..161

8.4.2 Immigrants’ self perception of positive acculturation outcomes…………...164

8.4.3 Immigration to Australia and its personal impact………..169

8.5 Ideals of returning to Latin America……….172

8.6 Future perspectives………176

8.7 Summary of the Results and Discussion: Latin American immigrant women and the acculturation challenges in Australia………..178


9.1 Research Findings……….183

9.1.1 Acculturation: A two dimensional process with contradictory strategies…..184

9.1.2 The impact of the assimilation ideal on immigrants’ socio-cultural adjustment………...187


9.2 Discussion of the findings in relation to the existing literature………196

9.3 Limitations of the research………197

9.4 Contributions and suggestions of the research………..198

9.5 Recommendations for future research………..200



Appendix A: Interview Schedule………216

Appendix B: Copy of Form of Disclosure and Informed Consent Form………220

Appendix C: Summary of participants’ demographic backgrounds………...224




1.1 Introduction to the phenomenon of immigration and acculturation

Leaving one’s homeland is never an easy decision. The reasons to immigrate to a new and distant place can be related to several issues, conflicts or needs. Nevertheless, most immigrants will face a personal and challenging process trying to adapt to a new society’s demands. Very frequently, the decision to immigrate is related to the hope of a better future for oneself and family members – seeking a better quality of life, freedom, democracy, or broader economic and professional opportunities (Fisher & Sonn, 2005). In this way, immigration often carries the expectation to make of the new land a place that could be called “home”.

However, this transition is not free from difficulties. Trying to adapt to a new country’s values, traditions and language can be a demanding and stressful experience. The challenges of immigration are not only related to the immigrant’s personal background, but also to the economic, political and social opportunities found in the new country, along with the attitudes and responses from the receiving society.


individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds meet and interconnect. In this process, members from minority and dominant groups are expected to influence and/or be influenced by parts of the other group’s culture. According to Berry (1990, 1997), immigrants are relatively free to decide their adjustment path. As a consequence of intercultural contacts with the host country, individuals follow an acculturation strategy that best matches their interest, values, skills and expectations. As Berry introduced, there are four possible acculturation strategies that takes place during the adjustment process to a new culture: assimilation, integration, separation or marginalisation.

Immigrants’ acculturation strategies are not only a result of their personal background, skills and capacity to adapt the new environment, but they are also connected to the opportunities and the historic, ideological, political and economic contexts found in the receiving country. Although integration is often observed as the ideal and healthiest acculturation result for immigrants and their receiving communities, it does not always take place.


As has been observed with several minority groups, immigration from more traditional countries does not always translate into an improvement of women’s lives (Morokvasic, 1983). If the host country’s services and policies do not fully contemplate the specific nature and needs of immigrant women – who are often unskilled or semi-skilled and need to join the labour market, and who often have children, no sources of social or family support, restricted knowledge of the host country’s language and lack of available time to pursue further education – the benefits from immigration would be delayed or, possibly, never fully experienced.

There are many factors that intervene on immigrants’ adaptation. Although, as many authors indicated (e.g., Berry, 1997; Berry & Sam, 2006; Sam, 2000; Smits, Mulder, & Hooimeijer, 2003; Suarez-Orozco, 2000), factors such as the reasons to immigrate, age, gender, previous educational and economic background, skills and motivations to adjust to the new country play a crucial role on immigrants’ adjustment, this only represents one half of the phenomenon. Acculturation is also the result of inter-group relationships (Tajfel, 1978; Tajfel & Turner, 1979). In this way, immigrants’ adjustment is associated to the host country’s attitudes and expectation towards minority groups (Leong, 2008; Nesdale, 2002; Stephan, Renfro, Esses, White Stephan, & Martin, 2005).


of culturally divergent immigrant groups (Colic-Peisker, 2005; Fozdar & Torezani, 2008; Van Oudenhoven, 2006; Ward & Masgoret, 2008).

1.2 Latin American immigration to Australia

The immigration of Latin Americans to Australia originated during the 1960’s, when the first officials were sent to South America in order to encourage immigration, promote the population growth and counter the labour shortage in Australia (Botzenhart, 2006). Although most Latin immigration took place during the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s, the main wave of Latin Americans arrived to Australia during the 1970’s, when most political and economic constraints occurred in the home countries.

The present thesis intends to investigate and understand the challenges and conflicts encountered by a group of 13 Spanish-speaking Latin American women living in Melbourne for an average of 31.5 years. Most of these women immigrated during the 1970’s for a variety of reasons and under different socio-political contexts, however, once in Australia, most of them experienced several cultural challenges trying to adjust to a new environment.


most immigrant women experienced high levels of work overload dealing with outside work and the fulfilment of traditional domestic and family duties.

As a result of their labour outcomes, and the restricted social and family support to share childcare duties, most of the women did not have available time to pursue language or professional education and presented restricted levels of labour and social integration. Due to this complex combination of factors, many of the women experienced high levels of acculturative stress, with conflictive socio-cultural issues that remained unresolved until the moment of the research. On the other side, women who reached higher educational levels, mastered the host country’s language and presented satisfactory labour integration also experienced several degrees of social separation and restricted levels of psychological adjustment. Regardless the educational and professional outcome of Latin American women, most of them faced similar socio-cultural challenges that were not able to resolve during their acculturation process and that represented significant barriers for their integration to the Australian community.


1.3 Structure of the thesis

The theoretical framework introduced in the previous section served as basis to structure the present research. The thesis is divided in nine chapters, each with several subsections.


Chapter three introduces the phenomenon of female immigration and explains why it is considered by many authors as a more complex, and often more difficult, phenomenon than the male case (e.g., Dion & Dion, 2001; Sullivan, 1984; Zinn, Hondagneu-Sotelo, & Messner, 2005). Within this process, the presence of traditional gender values still attached to women’s roles have a negative impact on their lives, limiting their social, educational and labour acculturation in the new country (Boyd, 1984; Darvishpour, 1999, 2002; Raijman & Semyonov, 1997). Sources of family, ethnic and broader social support are also connected to the ways immigrant women deal with diverse acculturative challenges (Jasinskaja-Lahti, Liebkind, Jaakkola, & Reuter, 2006; Lin, Ye, & Ensel, 1999; Noh, Beiser, Kaspar, Hou, & Rummens, 1999; Thoits, 1982) and observed as having a direct effect on their psychological adjustment.

Chapter four explores the main factors involved in Latin American immigration to Australia and the subsequent three main periods of Latin Americans’ relocation to this country. The section also presents a brief introduction of the three home countries of the research participants – Chile, Argentina and Uruguay – in order to better understand the contexts and backgrounds attached to women’s immigration.


Chapter six provides an overview at the methodology of the research. For this purpose, a phenomenological framework (Husserl, 1960, 1970) is presented providing the basis for the data analysis. Within this context, interpretative phenomenological analysis ( Smith, Jarman, & Osborn, 1999; Smith & Osborn, 2003) is chosen as the methodology to collect and analyse data from the interviews. Chapter seven specifies the method of the thesis, overview of the participants, materials, procedure and analysis of the data.

Chapter eight develops the research results while establishing connections with the relevant literature. At the end, the chapter resumes the overall results and presents the main findings of the research.




Immigrants can be considered as people who have made, as Fisher and Sonn (2005) defined, a relatively free choice to change their geographical residence looking for social improvement. The forces that lead to immigration can be various (Berry, 1997; Berry & Sam, 2006). Furnham and Bochner (1986) pointed out that most research has focused on demographic, historical or structural variables of immigration, and from these assumptions have been derived about the motives to emigrate. Among them, a main importance has been given to economic limitations in the home country, which is seen by the authors as an appropriate referent, but also as a simplistic conclusion.


immigrate could be influenced by family members, friends and employers and it could also be related to the access to information and the existing immigration policies of the host country.

Immigrants can be divided into different analytical categories related to their reasons to immigrate (Fisher & Sonn, 2005). Individuals who have decided to leave their home countries as a result of a relatively free choice, seeking to improve social and economic conditions of life are considered immigrants. On the other extreme, refugees are individuals forced to relocate because of perceived life threat. Some of the contexts of refugees’ relocation are characterized by political persecution, social crises and wars. Sojourners move under specific goals, in most cases, for education or work for a specific period of time, often considering returning home after their objectives are accomplished. In spite of these precise boundaries for relocation, sojourners share with other immigrants cultural and social challenges while acculturating to a new country, and also need to re-acculturate when they return home.


maintenance of cultural references, “is it of value to maintain my cultural heritage?” and the second, referring to relationships with other ethno-cultural groups, “is it of value to maintain relations with other groups”? The way immigrants relate to these two basic issues will impact on their acculturation outcome.

During the acculturation process, and as a result of inter-group contact among individuals of different cultural backgrounds, conflicts may arise at the individual and group level. At a personal level, immigrants could encounter diverse levels of acculturative stress (Berry & Annis, 1974; Berry et al., 1987) or, as also referred to, culture shock (Furnham & Bochner, 1986). At a broader social level, conflicts relate to discrepancies on acculturation expectations hold by immigrants and the receiving society (Johnson et al., 2005; Liu, 2007; Van Oudenhoven, 2006). Although integration has been indicated as the ideal acculturation outcome of most immigrants (Berry, 2005; Berry, Kim, Power, Young, & Bujaki, 1989), the host society’s values, ideals and policies significantly affect immigrants’ acculturation paths. Moreover, the receiving society’s expectations about immigrants’ level of adoption of the mainstream values and the maintenance of ethnic traditions play a great part in the acculturation process.


scholars have highlighted Australia’s ethnocentrism and the influence of an Anglo-dominant perspective where ideals of assimilation still prevail and reinforce discrimination and cultural inequality (Dixson, 1999; Forrest & Dunn, 2006, 2007; Johnson, 2002). According to Fisher and Sonn (2007), Australia’s ideal of whiteness is rooted in a history of colonization and still represents a strong influence on the acculturation outcome of certain immigrant groups.

2.1 Immigration and acculturation

The concept of acculturation refers directly to the cultural changes resulting from the encounters between immigrants (non-dominant group) and members of the receiving society. The first formal definition of acculturation was presented by Redfield et al., (1936) indicating the “phenomena which results from when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous first-hand contact, with subsequent changes in the original cultural patterns of either or both groups” (Redfield et al., 1936, p. 149).


contra-acculturative movement where individuals maintain their cultural traits and frequently takes place as a result of oppression or lack of cultural acceptance by the dominant society.

Redfield et al.’s (1936) concept of acculturation entails the idea that, in theory, both cultural groups influence reciprocally each other when they interact. However, power resources are frequently unequal between host societies and immigrants. Due to complex causes, one group frequently exerts a dominant cultural influence in the acculturation process. As Sam (2006b) indicated, this notion facilitated the impression of a one-sided acculturation process, whereby only non-dominant groups tend to suffer cultural transformations and, as a result, assimilate into the broader group. To Sam, further studies in acculturation should direct equal attention to the effects and changes in both dominant and minority groups.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) suggested a new explanation for Redfield’s concept in 2004, defining acculturation as “the progressive adoption of elements of a foreign culture (ideas, words, values, norms, behaviour, institutions) by persons, groups or classes of a given culture. The partial or total adaptation is caused by contacts and interactions between different cultures through migration and trade relations” (IOM, 2004, p. 5).


One of the most cited models of acculturation was developed by John W. Berry, who explained the immigrant’s adaptation process as the result of a relatively free-choice strategy (Berry, 1980, 1990, 1997, 1999). According to Berry, the acculturation process can be understood as four potential strategies: integration, assimilation, separation, or marginalization. When there is a balanced concern in preserving the original culture and participating in a broader sense with the receiving society, the integration option takes place. Assimilation occurs when individuals do not wish to maintain their cultural identity and pursue direct interaction with the other culture choosing to identify and adopt the host society’s values, behaviours and institutions. This outcome also takes place when the host country expects immigrants to adopt and blend with the broader main culture. Separation occurs when immigrants place great value on their cultural background and avoid any kind of interaction with the dominant group. Finally, marginalization arises when individuals do not have interest or possibilities to maintain their cultural heritage and present limited interest in interacting with others, frequently as a result of some kind of discrimination.


As previously mentioned, a key phenomenon leading to a positive adaptation among immigrants is the way in which they balance the cultural maintenance and the contact interaction with the new society. Nevertheless, the integration outcomes take place only when non-dominant groups adopt some values of the receiving community while the dominant group is prepared to accept institutional and cultural changes that would reflect the needs of a multicultural society. Berry, Poortinga, Segall and Dasen (1992) indicated that a multicultural environment needs to establish certain conditions to promote integration: an extensive acceptance and freedom to express and maintain cultural diversity; relatively low levels of discrimination and racism, positive attitudes among different ethno- cultural groups; and a certain level of identification with the main receiving society.

Building on Berry’s theory, Ward and Kennedy (1996) proposed an amendment to the acculturation model. They said that acculturation should be considered as a two-dimensional process in which both psychological and socio-cultural adjustment takes place. The first process, best analysed within a stress and individual coping framework, relates to psychological or emotional wellbeing. Socio-cultural adjustment is understood within a social learning framework and refers to individual’s capacity to use and/or learn adequate skills to successfully accomplish daily tasks in the new environment or, as the authors indicated, immigrants’ ability to “fit in” with the new culture. According to Ward and Kennedy, researchers should consider these two adjustment outcomes as separate concepts, although they are interconnected in the acculturation process.


sources of social support directly impact on psychological adjustment, and could be perceived in diverse levels of depression or mood disturbance (Stone Feinstein & Ward, 1990; Ward & Kennedy, 1992b; Ward & Searle, 1991). Socio-cultural adjustment, connections to the challenges encountered in daily life, is affected by length of residence in the new environment, language skills, perceived cultural distance and relationships with the broader community (Searle & Ward, 1990; Ward & Kennedy, 1992a, 1993). Apart from being influenced by different variables, these two processes often present dissimilar acculturation strategies and fluctuations over time.

Research developed by Ward and colleagues (Ward & Kennedy, 1994; Ward & Masgoret, 2008; Ward & Rana-Deuba, 1999) supported Berry’s idea that integration is the healthiest acculturation strategy for immigrants and their host communities (Berry, 1990), Integrated individuals were connected to more positive psychological levels than immigrants following any other strategy. At the same time, those who followed assimilation reported lower levels of social conflicts. As previously presented, Ward and colleagues observed the existence of two adaptive dimensions, referring to ethnic identity as the main variable connected to individual psychological wellbeing. Identification with the host community values and culture was the main factor favouring a more positive socio-cultural adjustment.


previous ethnographic knowledge of both cultural groups, the specific context/reasons/characteristics of their contact, and the changes resulting from their interactions. Acculturation changes at the individual level include behavioural shifts; presence, levels and ways of dealing with acculturative stress; and – considering Ward’s (1996) contributions to this issue – psychological adaptation (a balanced mental health and positive levels of wellbeing) and socio-cultural adaptation (social skills used to harmoniously adjust and interact with a new socio-cultural context).

2.2 Ethnic identity and acculturation

Even if the motivations to immigrate are complex and varied, the initial intention is, in most cases, to make one’s home in the new land. However, as Fisher and Sonn (2005, p. 305) mentioned, “the transition entails the severing of community ties, the loss of social networks, resources and familiar bonds and of course, the loss of taken-for-granted systems of meaning. The experience is often traumatic”. Immigration is, essentially, a process of rupture with some basic socio-cultural references for the sense of identity, and it embodies great and stressful challenges to immigrants. The outcome of this process depends much on the conditions found in the host country, the personal background of the individuals, the forces that impelled them to move, and the flexibility to create new alternatives for the personal identity, social relationships and new labour demands.


that has been left behind. As Sonn (2002, p. 205) defined, the “immigrant-adaptation can be construed as a process of community making that involves the negotiating and integration of cultural systems and identities developed in one context to a new context and the development of ties with the new country”. Following this perspective, Sonn locates immigrants as active members in the reconstruction of cultural references and not merely recipients of acculturative forces.

Other authors (Berry & Sam, 2006; Phinney, 1990; Phinney, Cantou, & Kurtz, 1997; Phinney, Horenczyk, Liebkind, & Vedder, 2001) have highlighted the relevance of a positive ethnic identity in the acculturating process, especially among minority immigrant groups. A strong ethnic identity could operate as a buffer of external stressors and has been associated with higher levels of self-esteem and well being among minority groups.


Phinney et al. (1997) reached similar conclusions as a result of their survey with 669 American-born high school students (372 Latinos, 232 African American, 65 whites). The findings of their research demonstrated that membership in a lower status ethnic group does not account for high or low levels of self-esteem. Regardless of how the ethnic group is valued by the mainstream society, individual levels of commitment and feelings about the values shared with other members of the group seem to be the main factors attached to a positive ethnic identity. This research confirmed other findings (e.g., Crocker, Luhtanen, Blaine, & Broadnax, 1989; Wright, 1985) suggesting a significant relationship between self-esteem and a positive attachment to one’s ethnic or racial group.

This positive relationship proved to be equally valid for all minority groups of the survey, where white adolescents were a small minority in a context that was predominately non-White. The ethnicity factor proved to have more positive outcomes when individuals are located in minority groups where the need for group solidarity is stronger. Another relevant enhancer of self-esteem for minority ethnic groups – especially in the case of Latinos – is the individual’s family relationships, a very important source of social support. Apart from that, better feelings of self-esteem are closely related to a positive acculturation outcome with the host society, which, at the same time, is related to language proficiency, educational backgrounds and perceived discrimination from the broader community (Phinney et al., 1997).


of themselves is constructed along two dimensions, the identification with their personal heritage or ethno-cultural group, and the identification with the dominant society. Considering these two dimensions, some similarities can be pinpointed with Berry’s acculturation strategies. When individuals emphasize in both identities (identification with personal cultural heritage and with values of the broader society), the outcome would be similar to an integration strategy. When individuals feel neither type of identification, marginalization would take place. When one type of identity overpowers the other one, the identity outcome would resemble either the assimilation or separation strategies.

2.3 Culture shock and acculturative stress


The experience of facing an unfamiliar cultural environment has been conceptualized as the phenomenon of “cultural shock” by many authors. As Furnham and Bochner (1986) indicated, the circumstances leading to cultural shock depend directly on a variety of factors, such as previous travelling experiences and interactions with other cultures, the degree of distance between the original and receiving cultural values, immigration policies, sources of social support, and also individual psychological characteristics.

Anthropologist Kalervo Oberg (1954; 1960) first introduced the concept of culture shock in 1954. According to Oberg, this phenomenon could be considered a “disease” that individuals suffer as a result of the loss of well-known cultural settings, symbols and values, leading to feelings of anxiety, frustration and helplessness.

After the initial reference to culture shock, many academics have used the main idea of this concept to indicate different types of stressful experiences causes by the immigration process (Bock, 1970; Furnham & Bochner, 1986; Kohls, 1984; Rhinesmith, 1985; Taft, 1977) . In general, the process of culture shock would affect most individuals in different degrees and levels, depending on the various demands for adjustment experienced at the cognitive, behavioural, emotional social and physiological levels. In other words, as Bock (1970) suggested, the phenomenon of culture shock could be seen as a primarily emotional reaction to the individual’s incapacity of understanding, controlling and predicting the behaviour of members of the new culture.


difficult to control (Furnham, 1997). The process of cultural shock could be better understood as a sequence of four primary stages, originally developed by Oberg (1960) and later presented by Furnham and Bochner (1986).

First of all, the “honeymoon or tourist phase” indicates an initial reaction of enchantment, enthusiasm and admiration with the new environment where all cultural differences are seen as part of an exciting and interesting package of the immigration process. Although some feelings of anxiety and stress could be experienced, these are observed as a positive ingredient of the process.

After this phase, the “crisis” period takes place in most cases. The previous honeymoon phase gives way to unstable stage that depends mainly on individual characteristics, preparation and environmental factors. Feelings of inadequacy, frustration, anxiety and anger emerge most commonly after few weeks to a month after arrival, derived from minor initial problems, negative experiences and first cultural reactions.


Adaptation is seen as the last phase of this process, and it is achieved when individuals successfully manage to balance the new country’s cultural background with their own. A positive resolution for this stage makes of the culture shock phenomenon a relatively beneficial experience. As a result of adaptation, individuals are very likely to transform substantial part of their values and reorganize their personal identifications, leading, most probably, to the structure of bicultural identities.

According to Furnham (1997), the resolution of culture shock is best achieved by the learning of new skills in order to communicate and interpret cultural values and symbols. This process would lead to the incorporation of different attitudes and behaviours commonly used in the new society. Although the concept of culture shock has been broadly associated to negative consequences, the author believes that mild doses of these experiences may be important for self-development and personal growth.


characteristics (Berry & Annis, 1974; Berry et al., 1987; Berry, Wintrob, Sindell, & Mawhinney, 1982; Donà & Berry, 1994).

Based on Berry’s model of acculturation, Donà and Berry (1994) developed a research with 101 Central American refugees living in Toronto. The findings of this work supported their theoretical perspective indicating that individuals who follow an integrationist strategy present lower levels of acculturative stress than those choosing an assimilation or separation paths. It is believed that immigrants, refugees and sojourners have a relatively free choice to incorporate parts of the host culture and decide to which extent maintain their ethnic cultural background. In this process, it is possible to evidence diverse degrees in the adoption and maintenance of cultural traits. As it was observed by the experiences of this group of refugees in Canada, individuals who rarely interact with their own culture seem to lack basic social support and, thus, do not deal effectively with the struggles minority members often have to face in daily life. On the other extreme, refugees stressing too much of a connection to their ethnic community often find difficulty in integrating and show higher levels of dependency and anxiety. Moreover, refugees who extremely intensify their ethnic identification might often suffer of psychological stress due to constant feelings of homesickness. Refugees who exaggerated a positive attitude towards the Canadian society also presented high levels of stress as they maintained high expectations regarding life in the new society, possibly underestimating adjustment problems such as finding employment and creating new social networks.


present a relation to psychological stress (Berry & Sam, 2006; Richmond, 1993; Suarez-Orozco, 2000). In the research developed by Donà and Berry (1994), the best predictor of psychological stress was the level of maintenance of the Latin American culture and values. Individuals showing a medium level of continuance of their ethnic background presented significant lower levels of psychological stress.

2.4 Ethnic social support as a buffer of acculturative stress

There is wide academic interest on the relevance of effective social support to buffer the consequences of stressful experiences related to the acculturation process (Birman, Trickett, & Vinokurov, 2002; House, Umberson, & Landis, 1988; Jasinskaja-Lahti et al., 2006; Kuo & Tsai, 1986; Lin & Ensel, 1989; Lin et al., 1999; Mossakowski, 2003). Sources for social support could be confined to the immigrants’ own ethnic community, or they can extend to other communities and to the host society.


psychological distress. Apart from that, support from the same ethnic social network had a direct effect on depressive symptoms and an indirect impact on other life events. As the authors concluded, “an interesting observation is that general social support from the broader community plays almost no role in this process. While it may be a truism to state that not all sources of support are equally effective in reducing psychological distress, our results provide convincing evidence that is consistent with the hypothesis of socio-cultural similarity” (Noh & Avison, 1996, p. 202).

It seems that an effective support relationship occurs when there is socio-cultural or situational similarity between the support provider and the receiver or when there is a complementarity between the needs and values of both parties. New immigrants would be expected to empathize with other immigrants as they feel they have in common main life experiences and, as a result, they would be better able to fully understand the nature of new immigrant’s acculturation conflicts.


Nevertheless, Kuo and Tsai (1986) believe that immigrants can live separated from the dominant society and not, necessarily, suffer severe social isolation. As long as the immigrants are able to re-establish strong social networks in the new country, the chances to experience a better health status increase. Within this kind of ethnic support groups, immigrants not only have better chances to cushion the life stressors as a minority group in the new country but also can have better access to specific knowledge that help them to evade economic and labour exploitation as new immigrants.

Sonn and Fisher (1998) indicated that community settings such as sporting clubs, churches, and family and friendship networks greatly enhance immigrants socialization with similar others. These contexts are seen by the authors as activity settings where immigrants have a chance to reinforce and maintain cultural values and traditions while negotiating with the new receiving cultural environment. Activity settings would promote the sharing of experiences and the creation of common understanding and meaning for the immigration and acculturation process.


Experiences of discrimination also have a strong impact on immigrants’ lives. Jasinskaja-Lahti, Liebkind, Jaakkola, and Reuter (2006) observed that discrimination episodes had a significant connection to individuals’ psychological wellbeing among three groups of Finish, Russian and Estonian immigrants in Finland. As expected, the more immigrants experienced discrimination from the broader society, the lower their level of psychological wellbeing in general, and anxiety, depression and psychosomatic symptoms in particular. In this case, the levels of psychological distress due to discrimination remained significant, regardless the frequency of contact with social support networks. To the authors, it seems that the positive and protective effects of ethnic social support in the new society enhance feelings of psychological wellbeing, only when immigrants are not subjected to discrimination. Following the authors’ hypothesis, immigrants who perceive discrimination from the broader society would tend to avoid ethnic behaviour and interaction with similar ones in order to protect themselves from enhancing the causes of further discriminatory experiences.

2.5 Factors impacting on the acculturation process


significantly impact on immigrants’ adjustment process to a new cultural environment. However, forces affecting individuals’ adjustment are complex and varied and not limited to immigrants’ willingness and skills to integrate to a new country. Responses from the receiving society, including attitudes and expectations towards immigrants’ acculturation outcomes also greatly impact on their adaptation process.

The phenomenon of inter-group relationships allows researchers to observe historical, ideological, economic and political forces affecting the acculturation process of immigrants and host societies. Differences in acculturation expectations between host members and immigrants could lead to in-group bias and the development of prejudice or discrimination. This phenomenon often provokes disappointment, frustration and stress among immigrants.


2.5.1 Factors Prior to Acculturation

Some of the moderating factors existing prior to the relocation process are related to the immigrant’s age, gender, educational level, reasons, motivations and expectations to immigrate, cultural distance between the individual’s background and the host society and personality characteristics.

First of all, the circumstances and reasons surrounding the relocation can play a significant role in the way individuals deal with the adjustment process. Although there are not clear conclusions about the impact of these factors in the acculturation results, many authors believe that this process might be different whether individuals have been pushed or pulled out of their country of origin. Following this argument, voluntary immigrants who have left their country by the expectation of better economic, professional or adventure opportunities would present a proactive response and would be more positively disposed to the challenges of the immigration experience. On the other hand, individuals who have been “pushed out” from their home land due to political, religious or ethnic conflicts would present a reactive attitude and could experience more psychological adaptation problems (Berry, 1997; Berry & Sam, 2006; Vega et al., 1987).


Immigrants’ age is one factor that can affect the outcome of the acculturation process. It is well known by researchers that if acculturation begins at an early stage of life (prior to primary school), the adaptation process to a new cultural environment will be smoother (Sam, 2000, 2006a; Suarez-Orozco, 2000). As the socialization process has not fully advanced in the home society, young immigrants would remain more flexible in cultural terms and experience lower levels of acculturation conflict. However, adolescent immigrants might face substantial problems while acculturating to a new country. This is probably related to the fact that adolescents would normally experience greater conflicts between peers and parents during that period of life. The pressure of adapting to a new cultural environment and affirming one’s ethnic identity could also be combined to the problematic transition from childhood to adulthood. Apart from that, parents’ ideals often play and influential role in adolescents’ acculturation process, as young immigrants are often expected to integrate to the receiving community while maintaining ethnic languages, traditions and norms.


Gender is another factor that influence the acculturation outcome, and many authors believe that female immigrants are potentially more at risk than males (Berry & Sam, 2006; Darvishpour, 2002; Dion & Dion, 2001; Raijman & Semyonov, 1997). This unequal situation for women is related to specific gender values of the two societies (home country and host society), overload of external work and domestic responsibilities after immigration due to the lack of family and social support and, as a result, the limited time to learn new skills and language necessary to progress in the host country (Smits et al., 2003). Women’s situation is also restricted by the host country’s immigration policies, where women are often considered dependents of their husbands’ legal and professional status (Berry & Sam, 2006).

Education is also observed as a factor that greatly influences the acculturation results. As Berry and Sam (1997) present, studies have shown that higher levels of education are related to lower levels of stress after immigration. In this context, education is considered to be a useful personal tool for problem analysis and problem solving, contributing to better adaptation outcomes. From another perspective, education also provides individuals with greater chances of work mobility, better occupational and social status, and more qualified skills to learn and adapt to the new values, norms and language of the new society. In addition to these factors, the knowledge of the host country’s language is, clearly, a main advantage in the acculturation process.


country is higher than the entry status as their credentials are often devalued in the new country. Berry indicated that “sometimes this is due to real differences in qualifications, but it may also be due to ignorance and/or prejudice in the society of settlement. The usual main goal of immigration (upward mobility) is thwarted, leading again to risk for various disorders, such as depression” (Berry, 1997, p. 22). Frequently immigrants from middle class backgrounds are the ones to experience the most significant losses in prestige, finding employment in positions far below their training and qualifications. This is often related to the immigrants’ language limitations and restricted recognition of their certifications in the new country.

Immigrants’ limited knowledge of the new country’s social axioms (common beliefs that guide social behaviours) has also been reported to impact on the adaptation process to a new social environment (Kurman & Ronen-Eilon, 2004; Searle & Ward, 1990; Ward & Kennedy, 1992a) . It has been observed that the greater the cultural differences between the immigrant’s and the host society’s culture, the more difficult would be the culture shedding, facilitating a poorer adaptation outcome for immigrants (Berry, 1997; Berry & Sam, 2006) . Knowledge of the Host Country’s Language


to various levels of stress and depression (Delander, Hammarstedt, Mansson, & Nyberg, 2005; Masgoret & Ward, 2006).

Various authors (Chiswick, 1991; Hayfron, 2006; Kossoudji, 1988; McManus, Gould, & Welch, 1983) have reported that the ability to effectively speak the host country’s language is a determining factor of the immigrant’s positive adaptation in labour and social contexts. Good communication skills are necessary for the performance of daily tasks in the new country, such as establishing new interpersonal relationships with individuals from the mainstream society or looking for job opportunities. An effective knowledge of the dominant language helps immigrants to adjust to the host society as this process promotes the understanding and exchange of cultural values among individuals of different ethnic backgrounds. In this way, successful communication skills are basic components of an integration strategy.


background, immigration policies, family and childcare support provided in the new country, and effective communication between immigrants and the language services providers organized by the Government.

In this way, even if the host society presents high levels of job vacancies, immigrants’ employability and earning levels will greatly depend on their level of language mastery. Apart from the fact that most job offers are advertised in the dominant language, most employers highly prefer candidates who can successfully speak it. As expected, a poor language mastery will not only exclude immigrants from higher-paying jobs but also will facilitate a general social and labour segregation and stigmatization (Chiswick & Miller, 1995). Statistical data demonstrated the positive rewards of language mastery in the labour market: Australian Census in 1986 showed that English-language fluency is related to up to 6.4% higher earnings among immigrants from non English-speaking backgrounds (Hugo, 1989, 1991 ).

The knowledge and confidence in the host country’s language has impacts on many aspects of immigrants’ lives. Learning the dominant language has shown to have close relations to identity change, cultural assimilation and psychological adaptation. As previously mentioned, immigrants’ positive attitude towards learning the dominant language seems to be a powerful ingredient in order to reach the ideal integration strategy indicated by Berry (1997).


institution. These four groups were constituted by Francophone majority students (from Quebec), Francophone minority students (from Ontario), Anglophone majority students (from Ontario) and Anglophone minority students (from Quebec), all sharing the same campus.

Based on Berry’s strategies of acculturation, Clément et al. (2001) confirmed that the majority (over 80%) of the students fell into the separation strategy. Apart from the analysis of the students’ ingroup and outgroup identification, the authors observed the significance of language acquisition and its impact on students’ identity choices. The results of this section strengthen Lambert’s (1963; 1978) concept of subtractive and additive bilingualism.

According to Lambert (1963), the phenomenon of additive bilingualism frequently takes place when individuals from a dominant language group learn the language of a minority group. This process facilitates identification and adjustment with the minority group without greatly affecting individuals’ previous identity and social values. The opposite occurs when a minority group learns the dominant language. In this case, the process of subtractive bilingualism often takes place. For these individuals, mastering skills in the dominant language impacts on their acculturation process and identity choices. Lambert indicates that individuals from minority groups frequently experience some level of erosion of their ingroup identification, decrease the mastery of their own language and tend to follow an assimilation pattern of acculturation.


from this were mainly observed among individuals from a dominant culture. Anglophone students were the only ones to present additive bilingualism, with signs of an integrative identity process of both cultural backgrounds, impacting positively on their adjustment process. An assimilation pattern was observed among Francophone minority students, presenting a tendency of losing proficiency in their own language as their knowledge of English increased. It seems that the chances for individuals from minority groups to retain identification with their own ethnic background while adapting to a dominant society are somehow restricted, not being able to fully benefit from integration in a multicultural society

2.5.2 Influence of the host society on immigrants’ acculturation process

Acculturation is not an isolated process that only depends on individual, historical and educational backgrounds of immigrants. A complete understanding involves the consideration of inter-group relations between immigrants and the host communities, along with the influence of diverse ideological, political, social and economic factors.


phenomenon where intra and inter-group relations take place, and where immigrants and the host society acculturation attitudes meet and relate. The dominant society’s expectations of immigrants’ acculturation impact greatly on the final outcomes and the place immigrants have in the host country.

While more research is needed to better understand the content and intention of host society’s attitudes and expectations towards acculturating groups, some authors (e.g., Horenczyk, 1997; Ward, 1996) have already stressed on the impact of these attitudes on immigrants’ adjustment process.

Based on Berry’s (1997) acculturation concept, Bourhis and colleagues (Bourhis, Moïse, Perreault, & Senécal, 1997) developed the “Interactive Acculturation Model” in order to understand the influence of the acculturation expectations of host societies and the strategies followed by immigrants. This model explains that members of host societies can adopt one of five acculturative orientations towards immigrants: integration, segregation, assimilation, exclusion and individualism. The first three are based on Berry’s model. The last two are variations of marginalisation, where members can either believe that immigrants are a threat to the national community and that the country should be closed to immigration (exclusion), or where host members and/or immigrants believe that there are no “right or wrong” identification choices, and that individuals should feel free to combine or select any strategy they are more comfortable with (individualism).


perceived prejudice or discrimination. On this issue, Horenczyk (1997) believes that contradictions between a positive general orientation of the dominant society towards immigrants and less positive reactions within the immigrants immediate social context might lead to frustration and disappointment among acculturating individuals. Due to the social, economic and political complexity of nations, similar immigrant groups might decide to acculturate in diverse ways in the same country, according to the local host community they are socially exchanging with.


Differences on these results were mainly related to immigration policies and social responses from the dominant society towards immigrants. According to the authors (Van Oudenhoven, 2006; Van Oudenhoven et al., 2002), Canada presented the most integrative experience with multiculturalism among the analysed countries, while Australia, although officially an multicultural country, was still under the ideological influence of assimilation.

Responses from the receiving society and the resulting inter-group relations between host members and immigrants depend on a complex series of factors. Within the Australian multicultural context, members of the receiving society may feel that the intake of minority groups from distant cultural and language backgrounds could represent a threat to the maintenance of national values and symbols (Fisher & Sonn, 2007; Johnson et al., 2005; Liu, 2007). Apart from the cultural factor, mainstreamers can see immigrants as an economic threat if competition for scarce resources is perceived (Esses, Dovidio, Jackson, & Armstrong, 2001; Jackson & Esses, 2000). As a result of perceived threat by the host society (Stephan et al., 2005), prejudice and discrimination often arises, having negative effects on the integration process of immigrants.


comparisons, where individuals develop categories and concepts of accepted values, ideals and behaviours seen as positive and favour those individuals who present or follow these tendencies. Minority immigrants who do not fit into national ideals or are not considered “worthy” due to their colour, cultural background, language skills or accent are often victims of rejection and discrimination (Fisher & Sonn, 2007). It seems that the influence of a long history of hierarchy of acceptability in Australia still presents a negative impact on the acculturation of minority immigrants, often making them feel that they can stay, but that they are not really welcomed. This could be a significant factor why many immigrants do not feel at home in Australia, in spite of spending most of part of their lives in the new country (Colic-Peisker, 2002; Forrest & Dunn, 2006; Liu, 2007). According to Liu (2007), a country with visible multicultural symbols such as ethnic restaurants, festivals and shops – to name a few – does not necessarily translate into a fair multicultural society where mutual acceptance and equal ethnic participation is truly valued. Unfortunately, minority immigrants under conditions of greater perceived discrimination would more likely separate or marginalize rather than assimilate or integrate to the dominant community (Barry & Grilo, 2003).


most especially women’s) adjustment in the new country, diminishing risks of stress and depression. Interpersonal relationships not only provide guidance on how to proceed in the new society but also act as supporting groups were domestic, family and other responsibilities can be shared. As the author indicated, a well-functioning social support network could help to a great extent in the adjustment process of immigrants.

More recently, referring to dominant acculturating groups, Berry (2003, 2006) presented the term “acculturation expectations” to indicate the ideals and views held by members of the receiving society about the way immigrants should acculturate. Apart from these expectations, members of the host society follow different levels of endorsement of the concept of “multicultural ideology” on how they should change to accommodate other minority groups in the broader community (Berry, Kalin, & Taylor, 1977). Attitudes and expectations from the dominant society greatly impact on immigrants’ acculturation strategies, and are also directly related to their levels of acculturative stress, psychological and socio-cultural adjustment.


the mainstream community is prepared to adjust itself and its institutions to better address the needs of a plural society, promoting positive levels of adjustment.

Discrepancies regarding acculturation preferences of dominant and immigrant groups could lead to social and psychological conflicts, and are often experienced as “acculturative stress” by acculturating individuals. According to Berry (2006a), recent findings support the idea that one of the most significant influence on immigrants’ acculturation outcomes is linked to the attitudes and behaviours endorsed by members of the receiving community towards them. Prejudice and discrimination seam to have a significant negative impact on immigrants’ capacity to adapt to the new social context. In this direction, an international study of over 5000 immigrant youth (Berry, Phinney, Sam, & Vedder, 2006) showed that discrimination represented the most salient factor limiting immigrants’ positive psychological and socio-cultural adjustment.

2.6 Immigrants’ acculturation outcomes and its relation to psychological wellbeing


culture and incorporate some values, practices and behaviours of the host society, obtained significantly lower scores on depression and higher scores on social interest when compared to high acculturated individuals (following an assimilation strategy) or low acculturated immigrants (marginalized). In this sense, integration promoted biculturalism, representing the acculturation strategy more beneficial to the mental health of this group of Latin immigrants. The fact that participants who followed a bicultural perspective showed less depressive symptoms and more social interest reinforces Berry’s (1990) idea that integration is the ideal strategy to adjust to a new society.

The research work of many authors (e.g., Kuo & Tsai, 1986; Lopez, Haigh, & Burney, 2004) had weakened the conventional belief that assimilation with the broader host culture would increase immigrant’s social or psychological wellbeing. A study with a group of first and second generation of Latin Americans in Melbourne, developed by Lopez, Haigh and Burney (2004) reinforced the idea that as immigrants become more assimilated to Australian values and culture, their levels of stress rises. Differences in stress levels between first and second generation might be related to the fact that first generation immigrants were recruited through social ethnic clubs where the impact of stress can be better buffered by the community support. In the case of the second generation of Latinos, they were recruited through friends and relatives and represented, overall, a group much more assimilated to the broader society and less participative in maintaining their ethnic cultural identity though community clubs.


inclusion of new cultural elements of the host society. This position would enable immigrants to deal in a functional and balanced way with both cultural repertoires. As the researchers explained, “psychological resiliency during the acculturation process may depend on the individual’s ability to become bicultural (…) Those individuals who are able to incorporate functional skills from the host culture fit better in the new environment and do so with fewer detrimental effects to their mental health” (Miranda & Umhoefer, 1998, p. 6).




The close attention paid to women within the immigration process represents an academic focus of, approximately, the last three decades. Before this, immigrant women were frequently stereotyped as dependant wives, unproductive and isolated members of the community not included in most analysis of the reasons, ways and effects of immigration. Until the 1970’s, as mentioned by Morokvasik (1983), the traditional female role was reinforced in some European labour migration systems, with the ideal “to promote women so that they can play fully their role for which they are made, the one of helpmate, of housewife and of educator” (Morokvasic, 1983, p. 17).

The growing interest on female migration resulted, mainly, from two specific social phenomena, one is the feminist perspective on women’s role in the society since the 1970’s, and the other is the acknowledgment of women as economically productive members. Within the American academic context, the so-called “new ethnicity” and “identity politics” movements of the late 1960’s, along with the feminist values, promoted the entrance of many women into graduate schools placing a special interest at the historical records of women and migration (Sinke, 2006).


America (Dion & Dion, 2001; Hondagneu-Sotelo, 1992). During the 1990’s, immigration academics started focusing on the psychological and social impacts of this process in women and men’s lives, studying the adaptation and acculturation into the new society. As a result, immigration studies considered gender as a significant geographically and culturally related construct.

The concept of gender can be understood as “the activity of managing situated conduct in light of normative conceptions of attitudes and activities appropriate for one’s sex category” (West & Zimmerman, 1991, p. 14). Complementing this notion, Wade and Tavris (1999) had explained gender as a sum of duties, rights and behaviours that a specific culture attributes and expect from femininity and masculinity. In this way, gender roles and expectations are a direct result of cultural socialization, and they vary depending on historical, economic, political and cultural contexts. A good understanding of the characteristics and influence of gender values in society seems to be extremely important in social analysis as it shows possible socially constructed mechanisms for female oppression and subordination (Pedraza, 1991; UNESCO, 2003).


Immigrant women frequently experience an overloaded reality, trying to combine the pressures of paid work with family and domestic duties. In most cases, these women have to find this a difficult balance without social or family support to help them, especially with children care (Alcorso, 1991, 1995a; DIEA, 1985).

This situation often leads to a serious shortage of time to pursue education, learn new social skills and the language of the host country. In many cases, these circumstances become a trap for female immigrants who do not have many opportunities to work on a positive integration strategy. As a result of the combination of traditional female responsibilities, restricted family or social support networks and the relative isolation from the mainstream society, immigrant women often experience high levels of psychological stress, and, even, depression (Noh, Wu, Speechley, & Kaspar, 1992; Vega et al., 1987).


3.1 Challenges related to female immigration

Various authors (e.g., Apfelbaum, 1993; Boyd, 1984; Darvishpour, 1999, 2002; Dion & Dion, 2001; Raijman & Semyonov, 1997) have argued that immigrant women do not encounter the same social conditions in a new country as immigrant men and, on many occasions, the expected benefits of immigration might be delayed for them. Dion and Dion (2001) suggested that the negotiation of expectations and responsibilities related to family functions is a conflictive challenge that women have to face while acculturating to a new country. The constraints and values attached to traditional female gender roles not only impact women’s family and personal life, but also affect their labour outcomes in the new country.

Boyd (1984) observed, in her analysis of immigrant women in Canada, that foreign born individuals do not find the same economic and labour opportunities as native born and often experience some levels of discrimination in the new society, closely related to immigrant’s lower level of education, occupational skills, language knowledge and country of origin. Immigrant women not only face more stratification within the workplace and the society in general, but also are more likely to suffer from a “double disadvantage”, where gender values intersect the already conflictive process of immigrating and adjusting to a new culture.


instability and separations are more frequent among immigrants than Swedes, but that non-European immigrants divorce more than non-European immigrants. Among these groups, South American (Chilean) and Iranian families with children were the two groups at greatest divorce risk than any other immigrant group in the period 1991-1992. Darvishpour interviewed 30 Iranian participants – men and women – divorced between 1984 and 1995 living in Sweden. The author found that the immigration process had, very often, been a painful process of readjusting traditional family structures and relations between men and women in a completely new social environment. Education and professional development showed to be relevant resources that impact on family life and the unequal power relationships. Within this study (Darvishpour, 2002), the biggest changes were observed in families where housewife immigrants had the opportunity to progressively decrease their dependency on their husbands by continuing with their education and entering the paid workforce in Sweden. On this point, the author indicated that “sociopolitical measures in various ways, by increasing the power resources of women, have made it easier for women to solve the social and economic problems that can arise in connection with a divorce” (Darvishpour, 2002, p. 280). Along with the modification of power resources between the spouses comes an intense risk of family conflict and separation. The high incidence of divorce among immigrant families suggest that it is the changed women’s role in society and their fight for liberation rather than a change in men’s role, that leads to conflictive breakdowns.


Apart from the understanding of some causes for divorce among immigrant families, this research has shown a growing family pattern among immigrants, constituted by single mothers with children.

However, the transformation of more traditional values does not occur in many immigration stories. Fernández Kelly (2005) presented the impact of immigration on the economic, political and ideological aspects of gender in two groups of Hispanic women working in factories of Florida and California. The author examined the changes that working immigrant women provoke in the negotiation of roles within the household. It was observed that these immigrants still presented an unambiguous acceptance of patriarchal values that define male and female roles and behaviours. Most of these Hispanic immigrants did not have previous working experience and the entrance into the paid labour force in the new country mainly represented the need to maintain the family integrity and to conquer better class-related standards. On this, Fernandez Kelly argued that “the meaning of women’s participation in the labour force remains plagued by paradox (…) Paid employment responds to and increases women’s desires for greater personal autonomy and financial independence” (Fernández Kelly, 2005, p. 354). This situation could have a positive impact on women’s abilities to negotiate unfavourable gender division of duties in the private and public spheres.


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